Cheating Isn't Charming

Responding to a recent Josephson Institute report revealing that lots of kids involved in high school sports are forming negative values and attitudes about cheating, one reporter asked me, "Why do so many kids think this is acceptable?" My answer was, because so many adults accept it.

That's the brutal fact. What we allow, we encourage. We have been so tolerant about cheating in sports that kids get the message — it's part of the game.

It's ironic that the Institute's report came out in the midst of NASCAR's biggest cheating scandal. Four crew chiefs were banned from the Daytona 500, hefty fines were imposed, and a premier driver was penalized after an illegal fuel additive was found in his car.

Many praised the crackdown, but others were miffed that naïve do-gooders were ignoring the time-honored racing creed, "If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying."

Many NASCAR aficionados cherish the heritage of "creative engineering," just as many baseball traditionalists revere spitball pitchers who get away with illegally doctoring the ball.

One of auto racing's most successful crew chiefs, Chad Knaus, tried to put lipstick on this pig.

"Every word in the rule book has a space between it," he said, "and that's where you look for an advantage. The perception of me being a cheater is not true. I just try to find a loophole."

Inspectors disagreed, and banned him from last year's Daytona.

I wonder whether all the people who think cheating in sports is charming feel the same way about business executives who trade on inside information, inflate profits, backdate options or create off-the-books partnerships to conceal debt.

The simple fact is, cheating is wrong no matter how many people do it. Michael Josephson wants to remind us all that character does count.